What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Upland Hills Health PortraitsJackie Wilkinson is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at Upland Hills Health. She is the Coordinator of the Diabetes Self Management Program which helps individuals manage diabetes to live long, healthy lives. To find out more information, please contact wilkinsonj@uplandhillshealth.org

Metabolic syndrome is a health condition that affects 23 percent of American adults and places them at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and diseases related to fatty buildups in artery walls. MetabolicSyndromeInfographicMetabolic syndrome occurs when a person has three or more of the above measurements. When a person has three of these conditions together, the risk for developing chronic diseases is greater than if a person had any one factor alone. For example, high blood pressure alone is a serious condition, but when a person has high blood pressure along with high fasting glucose levels and abdominal obesity, this person may be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and the risk for developing chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease or type II diabetes, increases even more.

What are the Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome?

Because metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions, many of which must be determined with lab work, it is not one that an individual can assess without the help of a healthcare provider. However, if you have a large waist circumference and have been told by your healthcare provider that you have another condition like elevated triglycerides, high blood sugar or high blood pressure, you should discuss your combined risks with your healthcare provider to determine if you do have metabolic syndrome.

How to Prevent Metabolic Syndrome

There are a few things you can do daily to help prevent metabolic syndrome:

  1. Eat healthier foods.  Include fiber-rich fruits and vegetables in your meals and snacks whenever you can. Fiber helps decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol, manage blood sugars, and increases feelings of fullness which can aid in weight loss. Adding fish, nuts and seeds, avocado, and heart-healthy oils such as olive or canola oils can help increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Decreasing processed foods that are high in sodium, added sugars, trans fats and artificial ingredients can help decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, and help with weight loss.
  2. Exercise. Being active is a necessary component of weight loss. Incorporate at least 150 minutes of moderately vigorous physical activity into your weekly routine. Walking is the easiest place to start, but you may want to experiment to find something else you like to do that gets your heart rate up. If needed, break your exercise up into several short, 10-minute sessions throughout the day to reach your goal.
  3. Manage your weight.  Talk to a Registered Dietitian to learn your recommended calorie intake, the amount of food calories you’re consuming, and the energy calories you’re burning with different levels of physical activity. Balance healthy eating with a healthy level of exercise to reach your goals.

When changes in lifestyle alone do not prevent or control the conditions related to metabolic syndrome, your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to control blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugars or other symptoms. Carefully following your healthcare provider’s instructions can help prevent many of the long term effects of metabolic syndrome. Every step counts and your hard work and attention to these areas will make a difference in your health!